The LWF Blog

Fire Safety Engineering for Design – Fire Engineer Proficiency – Part 6

December 1, 2020 12:47 pm

LWF’s Fire Safety Engineering blog series is written for Architects, building designers and others in the construction industry to highlight and promote discussion on all topics around fire engineering. In part 5, LWF looked at how and when performance-based building regulations were introduced in England and Wales. In part 6, we consider role of a fire engineer in terms of their competency and responsibilities.

A fire engineer must understand the background of the guidance which they are adopting, as well as prescribed solutions. Without a clear understanding of the scope, they will be unable to ascertain if the assumptions made in the guidance are relevant and pertinent to the design they are working to develop.

The consultant fire engineer, or a team of fire engineers, is responsible for the fire safety design resulting from their work and the responsibility is not shared with the authority having jurisdiction (referred to as AHJs). It is essential that the fire engineer is competent to provide the advice, as this applies even when the fire safety design follows a generic or simplified approach.

The overall responsibility for a design will reside with the lead designer, usually an architect, with assistance from the design team. The fire engineer will be a part of that team.

In the UK, the only way to ascertain a fire engineer is competent is to ensure they are a Chartered or Incorporated Engineer with a relevant professional engineering institution, such as the Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE). The IFE is required to base its assessment of applicants for Chartered or Incorporated Engineer on a standardised set of competency and commitment criteria, as is the case with all professional engineering institutions licensed by the Engineering Council in the UK. This standardisation ensures a consistent definition of competency across the board.

Outside of the UK, the broadly equivalent professional registrations are the Professional Engineer (PE in the USA, or Peng in Canada), Chartered Professional Engineer (CPEng in Australia) and Eur Ing (in Europe, administered by FEANI – the European Federation of National Engineering Associations).

There are also various technician level accreditations through industry bodies, such as the Certified Fire Protection Specialist (CFPS in the USA, administered by the National Fire Protection Association).

A fire engineer may have areas of particular expertise, such as structural fire engineering, smoke movement or human behaviour, but must also have a full basis of knowledge of all fundamentals and aspects of fire safety science and design.

In part 7 of LWF’s series on fire engineering will discuss the integrated approach taken by fire engineers in recent years to encompass modern construction methods. In the meantime, if you have any questions about this blog, or wish to discuss your own project with one of our fire engineers, please contact us.

Lawrence Webster Forrest has been working with their clients for over 25 years to produce innovative and exciting building projects. If you would like further information on how LWF and fire strategies could assist you, please contact the LWF office on 0800 410 1130.

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